But variations in weather can make your pool too cold to comfortably swim in. What’s the point of having your own pool if you can’t swim whenever you feel like it? This is why many people opt to invest in a heating system for their pool. There are many options-gas heaters, heat pumps, and electric resistance heaters among them. The problem? These all have monthly costs that add on to the expense of having a pool, and many of them also emit pollution that harms the environment and stinks up your pool area. Luckily, there’s a solution: solar pool heating systems.
Rather than relying on limited and expensive resources like propane or natural gas to heat your pool water (like a traditional furnace), solar pool heaters use an inexhaustible, never-ending resource: the light of the sun. Solar pool heaters capture solar energy in their panels, which make up an apparatus called a solar collector. When your pool’s water becomes uncomfortably chilly, you use a flow control valve to send water through the solar collector. There, the panels transfer the heat they’ve stored from the sun into the water.
Heating systems like this can raise the temperature of your pool by 10-20 degrees, depending on how you position your panels and how many you use. Solar pool heating systems have another advantage over other systems: they can cool water during months of the year when it gets too hot, by sending water through the cold collectors at night. This way, your pool starts at a refreshing chill the next morning. Solar pool collectors generate no environmental emissions, and they don’t use any additional electricity. Plus, they’re the quietest pool heating system. And since they use the sun’s energy, they cost absolutely nothing per month, using your pool’s existing pump. Here are some of the best solar pool heaters available if you’re looking to invest in one of these money-saving systems.
- 1 SunQuest Solar Swimming Pool Heater Complete System with Roof Kits
- 2 Northern Lights Solar Solutions Hi-Performance Solar Pool Heating System
- 3 Smartpool S601P SunHeater Solar Heating System for In-Ground Pool
- 4 Sungrabber Solar Pool Heater w/ Diverter and Roof/Rack Mounting Kit
- 5 sunCOIL SC-DOME Solar Heater for Above Ground Pools
The panels in this solar pool heating system are of particularly high quality, meaning they absorb the most heat and generate the greatest change in the temperature of your water. SunQuest promises to eliminate the cost of heating your swimming pool by taking the free energy of the sun and using it to heat your pool’s water. The system’s solar panels absorb thermal energy when the sun shines on them and transfers that energy to cool water when you need it. It doesn’t have to be direct sunlight, either-even when it’s cloudy, the panels are still absorbing and storing thermal energy, making this system perfect for swimming on days when the sun is cloaked behind clouds. SunQuest touts the reliability of their product, which is based on a simple, but effective design, and promises that the system will keep functioning so that “you can enjoy swimming in your pool from early spring through late fall in luxurious warm water.” If your goal is to extend your swimming season, this could be the system for you. One reason the SunQuest is so effective: its unique header and absorber systems. The 2” OD headers are molded directly over the absorber, while other systems don’t directly connect these parts or do so as securely. This makes for better water flow to the risers, and the larger size means less restriction for the pump compared to smaller headers, so there’s less pressure on your pump to perform. The absorber’s “tube-on-fin” design is constructed to catch the sun from every angle as efficiently as possible, and the UV-protected polymer the panels are made from has a long-life expectancy.
The SunQuest can be used in both above ground and inground pools. And if your goal is to save money, you might be interested to learn that the SunQuest is simple enough that you can install it yourself-no need to hire a contractor! All of the panels are equipped with connectors that attach to 1-1/2″ & 1-1/4″ flexible hose, as well as 1-1/2” rigid pipe (and can be adapted to fit other sizes.). The kit comes with everything for you to install these panels and set up your system-all you’ll need is the piping to connect the panels to your pool. The simplicity of the design can turn this from an expensive task that requires a contractor into a fun DIY project for your family. The SunQuest design also features The SunQuest system requires very little maintenance, but if you do need a replacement panel or connector, they have a great customer service team that can get replacement parts to you in as little as three days, so you won’t have to wait long before getting back in the water. Customers report the SunQuest raising the temperature of their pools by 10-12 degrees. They offer a number of different packages, varying in size of panels—make sure you’re getting the right size for your pool.
| Easy, DIY Installation|
2” OD header for better water circulation and less pressure on your pump
| Paneling is expensive per square inch|
Does not come with piping-you’ll need to buy your own
This system from Northern Lights Solar Solutions is not cheap, but it’s also arguably the very best solar pool heater on the market. Just ask the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation. This nonprofit organization was incorporated in 1980 to develop and implement national rating and certification standards for all solar energy equipment.
When the SRCC compared NLSS’ SunRain TZ58 1800 series solar vacuum collectors with 30 other similar tubes, they outperformed the competition by a shocking margin. These tubes, which use a patented 3-layer process to capture no less than 96% of the heat energy they receive from the sun, are at the center of NLSS’ Hi-Performance Solar Pool Heating System. They’re one reason the system is so pricey, but they’re also the reason NLSS can confidently promise the highest paybacks in the industry.
In the long run, your solar pool heating system could save you thousands of dollars, so it might be worth it to spend a lot on your system, especially if you don’t want to risk having to replace it frequently. If you’re of this mindset and are willing to spend a lot of money for a system with a long life expectancy, the NLSS Hi-Performance Solar Pool Heating System could be for you. It’s definitely pricey by comparison with the other options on this list, but its performance is unbeatable, and it promises a 20+year lifespan. When you consider that you might have to replace less expensive systems every five years or so, the initial investment in the NLSS system makes a lot more financial sense. And they promise to be not only the most advanced system on the market but the highest performing solar water heater in North America
The NLSS Hi-Performance System is available in a number of sizes and configurations, but the basic model is the SPH1, which ships at a weight of 400 pounds. That hefty weight is due in no small part to the sturdy materials the system is constructed out of. The SunQuest is much cheaper, but you’ll have to buy your own piping or hose. By contrast, the NLSS system ships with a full 100 feet of stainless steel Aurora Flex solar piping. The extremely durable piping means no leaks, which are an unfortunate reality of less expensive systems. The features don’t stop there. The NLSS Hi-Performance System also includes a SunRain Pump Station with fill drain valves, a pressure release system, a temperature gauge to let you know when your water has reached the desired heat, and a full digital controller. Add to that a stainless steel Heat Exchanger SP-155 Solar Expansion Tank – essentially adding even more firepower to the already impressive array of heating tubes-and you’ll start to see why so many people are paying the big bucks for the NLSS Hi-Performance Solar Pool Heating System. Unless you’re a plumbing expert, you’ll need to hire someone to install the system, but if you’re already shelling out for this expensive of a system, that probably won’t be a problem.
| SunRain TZ58 solar vacuum collectors are the best in the industry, meaning quick payback|
Ships with everything you need
| Initial investment is very costly|
Complex installation process
For a fraction of the price of the NLSS system, this solar heating system from SmartPool can provide many of the same functions, if not the same power and reliability. If you’re looking to invest in one of these innovative systems, but don’t want to spend a ton of money, this may be the best solar pool heater for you. It’s a much smaller commitment to make, and you can always choose to upgrade later if you get hooked on the solar pool heating experience.
The Smartpool S601P ships in a much smaller box than the NLSS Hi-Performance System, which is convenient and will save you on shipping. The system comes in at 34.05 lbs, less than 10 percent of the NLSS. The downside is that you’ll need an installation kit, the SK21 System Kit, which is sold separately and contains the mounting and plumbing hardware that you’ll need to install the system. This is only an additional 4.7 pounds, but it does cost $80, which Smartpool doesn’t feel the need to factor into the price of their system up front even though the system is useless without the kit, which includes the 3 way valve and check valve you need to send cool water through the solar collector and warm water back to your pool. However, one kit is sufficient to install up to four boxes of the Sunheater in-ground solar pool heaters, so if you have a larger pool and want to use multiple heaters, you’ll only need to buy one kit.
The Smartpool system can be installed on your own, with slotted panels that make it easy to install on a number of surfaces, including the ground around your pool, the roof of your house or garage, or your fence. You’ll want to make sure you’re picking locations with maximum exposure to the sun, though. The system uses your existing pool pump, another reason installation is simple and won’t require hiring outside help. The system has one header hole for each heating tube, for a direct flow system with minimal tubing needed to route water through the system, and all the connectors can work with multiple models. The reason Smartpool is touting this feature? Many people opt to purchase more than one of the system since it’s relatively low-powered. The base version is 80 square feet, but you can upgrade easily without purchasing another installation kit by simply buying another system. But Smartpool promises even one system can raise your pool’s temperature by 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not be big numbers, but for thrifty pool owners, that may be enough. Smartpool also recommends pairing the SunHeater with a solar blanket to help retain even more heat in your pool’s water.
| Inexpensive and simple to install|
Easy to expand for extra power
| Requires separate installation kit|
You may need to buy more than one to achieve significant results
A little more expensive than SmartPool’s system, but less bare-bones, this system from SunGrabber might be the best solar pool heater for consumers who want to dip their toes into solar heating but don’t want the cheapest option available. The Sungrabber Solar Pool Heater has more tubes per panel than other brands including Smartpool, and that’s just one of the features that sets it apart.
The Sungrabber claims it can provide 100% of your pool’s heating needs, putting it above other systems that can really only function as supplements to your existing gas heater. The panels the system uses allow for great circulation of water, using 1-1/2” headers that move water quickly. The system works with your existing pool pump, so installation is a breeze, and you won’t need to be a plumbing expert to put it together. Another edge over Smartpool? There’s no separate installation kit required, so you can assemble your system right out of the box.
The manufacturers recommend that your panels be equivalent to at least 50% of your pool’s surface, and the Sungrabber ships with 2 2’x2’ panels, so unless your pool is bigger than 100 square feet, one should be sufficient. The Subgrabber also ships with a diverter and a roof/rack mounting kit, so you won’t need additional equipment to put your panels in place. This makes it a great option if you’re looking for an all-in-one solar pool heating system that won’t break the bank.
No additional purchase required for installation
| Not very powerful|
Not equipped to heat larger pools
This solar pool heating system is a little different from the others on this list. Rather than installing heating panels on your home or fence, you just set up the SunCOIL solar dome, which has folding legs that allow you to angle it to capture the maximum amount of sun. That means much less surface area than other collectors, so the SunCOIL takes up a lot less space and is less of an eyesore than larger systems. Think of it as packing a lot of power into a smaller space. The nifty little dome, which wouldn’t look out of place next to your backyard grill, has a clear covering over the black coil, which absorbs the sun’s energy. The system is specifically designed for above ground pools, although the manufacturer does say that you can install more than one for larger pools or more heat. If a small system with a minimal footprint is what you’re looking for, this might be the best solar pool heater for you.
The SunCOIL comes with a free connection kit and diverter valve kit that you can use to direct and control water flow through the dome, and to bypass it completely when vacuuming the pool. It can be installed in line with most above-ground pool filter systems and requires no additional power to operate. It also has a five-year warranty, meaning if something goes wrong, the company will be glad to replace it. Unfortunately, customers report that the dome frequently springs leaks, so you may find yourself using that warranty a lot (or performing your own repairs). The manufacturer claims that, despite its diminutive size, the SunCOIL is capable of raising water temperatures by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit-impressive for such a small and unobtrusive device. It’s also quite cheap by comparison with traditional solar systems, so if you want to experiment with solar heating but don’t want a complicated installation process, check out the SunCOIL- you won’t even need a ladder.
| Doesn’t take up much yard space|
Can be angled to capture maximum sun at different times of the day
| Tends to leak|
Only works with above ground pools